After 48 years on the road and 8.5 million accident-free kilometres, Meyers Transport driver Dale Cockins probably thought his best memories on the job might have been behind him. He admits today he could have never imagined receiving two of the industry’s most prestigious driving awards in back-to-back years near the tail end of his career.
That’s what happened at the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention luncheon where – a year after being crowned the top driver in Ontario – Cockins was back at the Ritz in Toronto notching a ‘brace’ for also being recognized as the National Truck Driver of the Year.
The award, established by the CTA and sponsored by Volvo Trucks Canada, is the highest honour bestowed upon a truck driver in Canada who has maintained a collision-free driving record and demonstrated exemplary professionalism both on and off the road.
“With this award, dale is the best of the best. He embodies the definition of a trucker’s trucker; he’s safe, passionate and truly cares about the people that work alongside him, his customers and other drivers he shares road with,” says CTA president, David Bradley.
Added Peter Currie, Ontario district manager, Volvo Trucks Canada: “It is a pleasure to see Dale back at this podium. He personifies what these awards are truly about. After all these years, he still has the passion and fire in his belly for the job he loves.”
Born and raised in Roslin, Ont., near Belleville, Dale grew up working with heavy machinery on the family dairy farm and in the bush cutting logs with his father and brother. When he was 14, a neighbouring farmer asked Dale if he would deliver milk in the summer. “I said, ‘well, Bill, I don’t have a driver’s licence,’” Cockins recalls with a wry smile. “So he says back to me, ‘aww, you’ll be alright.’ So, I did.”
Still in high school, Dale’s older brother Wayne taught him to drive a truck and they ran as a part-time team until Dale was old enough to buy his own power unit – a 1961 International 4-ton – to haul pulpwood. He chopped the wood at night and delivered it in the morning before classes. Since then, Dale has owned eight trucks and driven nearly 9 million km with no preventable collisions. He has been with Meyers Transport of Belleville for the last 22 years, originally as an owner-operator and currently as a company driver.
“He’s efficient, he’s dependable and above all, he’s safe,” says company president Jacquie Meyers. “Equally important, he always puts customers first. He goes the extra mile to make sure our customers are happy, whether he’s met them or not.”
That was never truer than a few years ago on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when Dale noticed a child’s swing set sitting on the dock that had arrived late from the shipper. Knowing in his heart there would be a child somewhere without a gift on Christmas morning, Dale called the customer at home and arranged to deliver it personally. They agreed to meet at a local mall, but right away Dale knew the large box wasn’t going to fit in the customer’s car. So, like a real-life Santa Claus, he piloted his 18-wheeled sleigh to the family’s front door and unloaded the swing set.
“That’s just typical Dale,” says Meyers’ VP of Operations, Joe Ball. “It’s the kind of thing he does without hesitation.”
Dale has also performed many acts of courtesy and chivalry on the road. Whether it’s putting out car fires, attending to people at accident scenes, or pulling fellow drivers’ trucks out of ditches, he always stops when there’s someone in need of assistance.
Dale says the most gratifying point in his career came in 1998 during the ice storms of Quebec and Eastern Ontario. He was one of several truckers who volunteered to deliver food and supplies for two months to stranded people who had no heat or power. “It was trucks that got those people back on their feet – it was trucks!” Dale says passionately. “I’ll never forget that – the smiles, the handshakes – just how thankful they were for every load. That’ll stay with me forever.”
The CTA-Volvo Trucks Canada National Truck Driver of the Year is selected among all of the year’s provincial Driver of the Year recipients by a panel of judges made up of representatives from Transport Canada, the Traffic Industry Research Foundation and the Canada Safety Council.